Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Review: "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is a superhero masterpiece

Movie: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” 

Director: Jon Watts 

Runtime: 2 hours 13 minutes 

Release Date: July 7 

Rating:

There are few other characters in fiction that have been as simultaneously loved and tortured as Spider-Man. Despite being Marvel’s signature hero, Spider-Man has been forced to see two cinematic reboots in 15 years and has been completely left out of the behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to business politics.  However, with “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Spidey finally has his chance to shine in the MCU, and the result is a masterpiece that manages to satisfy nostalgia while also offering a fresh take on a well-loved story.

Arguably the largest separating factor between “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and all of the other films in the Marvel machine is that Spider-Man is a kid. From his goofy ringtone to his awkward interactions with his high-school crush, Tom Holland exudes a charming, enjoyable and youthful personality that is impossible not to love. In a universe full of super-humans and demi-gods, having a film helmed by a quirky and imperfect kid from Queens is a refreshing change of pace.

The smaller nature of the story is also refreshing. You won’t find any world-ending, apocalyptic aliens invading through a hole in the sky-like plot in “Homecoming,” and this works strongly in its favor. Too often, superhero films feel like they have to constantly raise the stakes higher and higher until the plot either comes across as convoluted, absurd or just boring. Rather than concerning themselves with making a movie that progresses the MCU forward, Marvel Studios focused on showing off the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man that fans have loved for over half a century.

Obviously, this type of smaller coming-of-age story rests largely on the acting of Holland, and he completely nails it. This is a Spider-Man who is still trying to figure out what it means to be a hero. Throughout the movie, Peter is desperate to receive the admiration and respect of Tony Stark and be like the Avengers, and Holland had me pulling for him every step of the way. “Homecoming” simultaneously had the funniest and the most touching moments I’ve ever seen in a superhero film and Holland managed to hit both sides of the spectrum with the same level of finesse.

While Holland clearly stole the show, what was really impressive was that the supporting cast was able to keep up. Everyone from Peter Parker’s nerdy best friend and sidekick Ned to his crush Liz and even a short appearance from Donald Glover as a street thug, everyone in this movie held their own and brought interesting moments to the story. Even Marisa Tomei, whom the internet has labeled as “Hot Aunt May,” brought unexpected emotion and humanity to the film as a single mom who is concerned for her only child.

While the whole cast impressed, a special mention should be made for Michael Keaton, who played Spider-Man’s rival, Vulture. Going into the film, I really hadn’t thought much about Vulture, as the trailers didn’t show much about him, and Marvel films have an ongoing history of mediocre villains. After seeing the film, Vulture has to at least be in the conversation for the best MCU villain yet. Through brilliant pacing and Keaton’s incredible acting, we see Adrian Toomes slowly change and escalate from a respectable blue-collar worker into a ruthless villain in a very believable way. Even as he commits terrible acts, the viewer always has a level of understanding of why he is doing what he is doing.

The film's biggest strength is definitely its characters, but it still succeeds as an action movie. Some might be disappointed in the lack of huge set pieces and grand-scale action and explosions found in other Marvel films, but the cinematic choices made in “Homecoming” are perfect for the story and Spider-Man as a character. 

Peter is still trying to figure out how to use his abilities and he isn’t incredibly powerful and it shows in the film. The filmmakers would often use somewhat chaotic camera angles to show the clumsy nature of Peter’s web-swinging and fighting and the sound-design went a long way in making the alien weapons Vulture and his goons use immensely threatening. Even though it’s a superhero movie and we know that everything will mostly be OK in the end, I still found myself wrapped up in the story and concerned for Peter whenever events took turns for the worst.

With a heart-warming story, likable characters, incredible acting and even the oh so rare strong third act, it is truly difficult to find a something negative to say about “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” With a short but exciting appearance in “Civil War” and now a solo movie that rivals the best of the MCU, Holland’s Spider-Man is sure to be here to stay, and in my opinion, his return can’t come soon enough.



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